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an Apple a day…

OK I just couldn’t resist it, after all the hype and build-up, I suppose I have to comment on this week’s announcement from Apple of Healthkit and the Health app. I know this goes against my earlier warnings not to get seduced by particular device platforms or apps, but given comments like “Healthkit will revolutionize how the health industry interacts with people” I felt compelled to sift through the hype and the reality.

Do you want the good news or the bad news?

Well first the good news – given that Apple is such an admired brand, with a fiercely loyal user base, then their official entrée into the world of mHealth is a notable occasion. It lends credibility to the whole mHealth movement and will support consumerisation and professional uptake alike (notable in the announcement were partnerships with Mayo Clinic and Epic, the market-leading EMR system). So thank you Apple, because this gives some of my predictions for 2014 a boost.

The bad news though:

  1. There wasn’t very much real information so it’s hard to tell how useful this will really be. On one level it sounded like Apple were merely enabling the interchange of data from health apps and devices, very similar to the type of work Validic and others have been doing for some time.
  2. It’s likely to reinforce proprietary ecosystems which are the main reason you should avoid device dependence in mHealth. You can’t imagine that Apple will be encouraging interchange with non-Apple apps and devices, and Epic have a similar ‘walled garden’ approach in the EMR space.
  3. Partnerships with Mayo and Epic are all very well, but only really useful to some regional customers in the USA. How does the rest of the world benefit from that anytime soon?
  4. It was hard to see anything really new in what Apple announced, and therefore how the assertion that this would ‘revolutionise’ healthcare is justified (see this Forbes article by Neil Versel questioning the rhetoric). There is talk of an iWatch in the autumn – maybe that will break some ground – but until then Samsung, Fitbit et al. seem to be just getting on with it.

So Apple lose 4-1 then?

Not at all. The downsides don’t really detract from the credibility boost and even fiercer competition that their entry will provoke. The volume aspect is important too – in effect the Health app will be pre-loaded on every Apple device running iOS8 from later this year. mHealth will never be about one device or app, but a high-quality entrant will always spur health rivalry. Things are warming up nicely for mHealth to really enter the mainstream this year, and that makes me very happy.

I hope I haven’t offended too many Apple-lovers amongst you, but I do hope that everyone sees the nuances as we move up the ‘slope of enlightenment’ for mHealth. Feel free to share your thoughts, or of course contact me.

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